Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
In her first term in Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert heckled President Joe Biden during the State of the Union, suggested another lawmaker was a terrorist, shared misinformation, ignored masking rules, and vowed to bring her Glock to Congress.
Then, the Colorado Republican almost lost a re-election bid she was expected to win handily. A recount confirmed Boebert won by a mere 546 votes, one of the tightest margins in the nation.
Now Boebert has to decide how to respond to the message from voters: continue the firebrand ways that brought her fame and prominence in the far-right, or become more of a district lawmaker with a focus on securing her political future.
“If she’s smart, she’ll make adjustments,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who helmed the House Republicans’ campaign arm from 1999 to 2003.
If Boebert will adjust, she hasn’t done much of it yet. In the past week, she’s vowed to investigate Hunter Biden and the “Fauci-funded Chinese-virus,” sat as almost all of her colleagues stood to applaud Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and hinged her support for Kevin McCarthy’s speakership on reinstating a process that former Speaker John Boehner described as “legislative terrorism.”
Yet Boebert said the next two years will be different because she’ll be in the majority and better poised to pass things for her constituents.
“All Americans are tired of people in this building talking and not producing anything,” she said in a brief interview with Bloomberg Government. “So I have a great opportunity now that Republicans are in the House majority to actually produce some things for the district.”
Like most Republicans, Boebert’s to-do list includes getting inflation under control and balancing the budget. But she said her “number one priority” is a bill (H.R. 4302) to help reduce the impact of wildfires by ensuring certain dead trees are removed and giving rural areas containing National Forest Service land a cut of profits from timber harvests.
Fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said while he doesn’t know Boebert’s district, his advice to everyone is “don’t ever give up your principles and communicate with your district.”
“She’s a true believer and she’s unafraid and she gets out here and says what’s on her mind,” Biggs said. “To my way of thinking, we probably need more of that.”
Boebert doesn’t blame her actions for the near loss. Instead, she said she needs “to get some independents to run next time,” a reference to her 2020 election when she beat her Democratic opponent by 6 percentage points after two independent candidates took part of the vote.
In November, she said the popularity of the Democratic nominees for Colorado’s governor and senator helped boost turnout for her opponent, Adam Frisch.
If Boebert does run again, she’s likely to face tough competition. That could include a re-match with Frisch, who said in a phone interview that the likelihood of a second campaign was “somewhere between possible and probable.”
Jacob Perry, a Republican strategist and co-founder of the Center Street PAC, is less confident that Boebert will make changes to secure her seat in 2024. After all, her persona brought her to where she is now.
“I would think in her mind, you know, you dance with the one that brung ya, so to speak,” said Perry, who endorsed Frisch. “It’s working for her, right?”
Davis added that when Republican members don’t change their behavior after voters send them a message “they get replaced by somebody far more liberal.”
“That’s a loss,” he said.
Colorado’s 3rd District, which covers the rural western half of the state, leans conservative. Post-redistricting, the district would have gone for Donald Trump by more than 8% points. But Republican voters sent a strong message in 2020 when they ousted five-term incumbent Scott Tipton in favor of Boebert. The district became slightly more conservative in redistricting and in the 2022 primary, she easily bested state Sen. Don Coram.
Despite the district becoming more conservative, it was carried by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who was running for a second term. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also came close to winning the district in his successful re-election bid.
Boebert will continue to be “a strong conservative” said Ben Stout, a spokesman for the congresswoman. He said she might be a little more strategic in how she covers her district and will focus on district-specific issues like wildfires, forestry and helping secure Colorado’s water.
She won’t back down from fights though, Stout said. Boebert has made clear she’d like a spot on the Oversight and Reform Committee, which is expected to handle some of the biggest investigations into the Biden administration.
The incoming chair of the Oversight Committee, Rep. Jim Comer (R-Ky.), said while the final decision will be made by the Steering Committee, Boebert would be a great fit on the committee.
“They have the Squad on their side,” Comer said referring to a group of the most progressive House Democrats. “It would be fine to have some very outspoken, aggressive, young Republican women on our side too.”
Boebert is also planning to play a role in showdowns over must-pass legislation including funding the government and preventing the U.S. from defaulting on its debt, using “some of those bottleneck points to bring about conservative victories” like limiting government spending and securing the southern border, Stout said.
Shortly after the recount, Boebert posted a video to her constituents promising to “be a good listener, to take a deep breath, and help take the temperature down in DC.”
“After all,” she said, “the weight this responsibility of being in the majority holds requires discipline and targeted focus.”
With assistance from Zach C. Cohen and Greg Giroux
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org